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“I was looking at orchids and I was struck by the physiology of these wonderful plants, how they attach themselves to a host and grow into these fantastically beautiful things,” says Andrew Grant. “I was thinking about how the flower roots itself, and how the leaves could be interpreted as land forms. I began to see the stems and roots as the paths through which you could view a modern garden space.” Andrew Grant Associates led an all-British team in their winning bid to design one of the world’s most ambitious garden projects, the Marina South in Singapore, a development spanning 54 hectares. Reclaiming waterfronts is a modern concern as Grant explains, “There is a lot of interest in regenerating waterfronts, which used to be seen as industrial, dirty and unsalvageable, but they are now being embraced for their aesthetics. There has been an enormous shift in the perceptions of developers and city planners everywhere, who now see the tangible advantages of reclaiming green spaces. It’s no longer seen as a frivolous waste of time and money, but as a source of health and wealth generation.” Busan, Bangalore, Seoul, Kaohsing and Shanghai are all investing to reclaim their waterfronts, and Hong Kong, too, is desperately trying to save what is left of its seafront and harbour. But it is Singapore that is setting the pace. The island-state at the tip of the Malay peninsula wants to up its status as a garden city, to become a city in a garden, and a world leading scientific authority on nature conservation. As a country that aspires to be a model of suburban utopian living, Singapore comes in for much criticism from outsiders for being a sterile, authoritarian dystopia, and its growth may have, until now, been unimaginative. But compared to the historically major cities of the world, it has enormous scope for positive development, the money to invest, and more importantly the political will. The motivation goes beyond rethinking its infrastructure; Singapore wants to create a lifestyle for its residents and visitors to propagate further investment. Singapore wants to establish itself as a leader in tropical
Inspired By The Physiology Of Orchids, Andrew Grant Set About Re-imagining Singapore’s Once Sterile Seafront
horticulture, scientific research and education, entertainment, arts, culture and commerce. A symbiotic relation-ship between leisure and business is key: an inspiring, welcoming environment means people are more likely to work productively, to invest and to visit time and again. Grant’s glasshouses, due to be completed by 2010, will be on a similar scale to the Eden Project in England, but where the Cornish project has created hot houses in a cold climate, the domes in Singapore will provide the cool temperatures needed to sustain an amazing variety of plant species never before grown in the tropics. One will be a cool moist biodome, the other, a cool dry one, and both will overlook the harbour and the city beyond.
The space will also incorporate a flower market and a series of smaller gardens, the standout feature, though, is the Lion Grove, comprising a cluster of “Supertrees” standing 50 metres high. The giant manmade structures with trunks formed from steel ribs, will be planted with epiphytes – ferns, orchids and bromeliads – and flowering climbing plants, to form vertical gardens protected by large canopies of latticed timber branches. The horticultural industry is something we take for granted in the UK. Inspirations and influences come from a rich gardening history, from the centuries of Roman-influenced formal geometry to Capability Brown’s “natural” vistas, and then Gertrude Jekyll’s use of more informal drift planting schemes. “Our design is
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